Revealed: almost every car-making region voted LEAVE in Brexit referendum

Honda car factory in SwindonThe shock news that Honda is to close its Swindon car manufacturing plant has inevitably focused attention on the region’s decision to vote leave in the 2016 European Union Referendum. 

Local Conservative MP Justin Tomlinson insisted Brexit was not a factor in Honda’s decision, but other industry commentators argue it will not have helped. 

But it’s not just Honda. Nissan and Sunderland are intrinsically linked, yet Sunderland is another region that voted leave. The company employs almost 7,000 people at the factory itself, with thousands more across the North East tied to the supply chain that feeds it.

Leave voting automotive areas

In an area affected by the decline of traditional industries, Nissan is not just part of the economy. For many, it is central to the financial lifeblood of the region. In the aftershock of Nissan’s recent decision to cancel building the next X-Trail SUV in the UK, attention also focused strongly on the region.

Counting the consequences

Leave voting automotive areasThe Sunderland area has itself become closely associated with the fallout from the 2016 European Union membership referendum.

Sunderland City Council has a determination to count election votes the quickest, meaning it often makes the headlines on polling day. In 2016, this meant that, for many, the first results from Wearside are intrinsically linked to memories of the referendum.

The connection between Nissan and Sunderland had led many to wonder how an area so dependent on frictionless trade with Europe could have voted to leave the EU.

Sunderland and Swindon: two of many

Leave voting automotive areasOther commentators have gone even further, revelling in schadenfreude, and suggesting that the people of Sunderland and Swindon deserve outcomes like the loss of the X-Trail and Civic for how they voted in 2016.

However, as much as the two regions’ decision to vote leave in 2016 may have baffled some, our research shows they were not alone.

Data from the EU referendum reveals districts linked to no fewer than 20 other car factories and sites across the UK also voted to leave. Just two voted remain.

Marginal leave-voting areas

Leave voting automotive areasEight voting districts, covering eight separate car production facilities, voted with a marginal swing towards leave.

The various companies accounted for a combined total of more than 12,000 employees at the time of the vote, with Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port facility alone producing more than 118,000 cars in 2016.

FactoryManufacturerVoting District2016 Vote Result
LongbridgeMG Motor SAICBirmingham50.4% Leave
Castle BromwichJaguar Land RoverBirmingham50.4% Leave
Ellesmere PortVauxhallCheshire West & Chester50.7% Leave
GoodwoodRolls-RoyceChichester50.9% Leave
CreweBentleyCheshire East51.2% Leave
GaydonAston MartinStratford-on-Avon51.6% Leave
HalewoodJaguar Land RoverKnowsley51.6% Leave
HethelLotusSouth Norfolk51.7% Leave
MalvernMorganMalvern Hills52.2% Leave

Stronger leave-voting areas

Ford BridgendAccounting for a staggering 22,000 automotive jobs, this group of districts includes a mixture of manufacturing and technical facilities.

Vauxhall’s Luton plant has existed in various guises since 1905, while Toyota UK’s Deeside facility only opened in 1992.

FactoryManufacturerVoting District2016 Vote Result
BridgendFordBridgend54.6% Leave
Honda of the UKHondaSwindon54.7% Leave
Plant SwindonBMW (Mini)Swindon54.7% Leave
WhitleyJaguar Land RoverCoventry55.6% Leave
SolihullJaguar Land RoverSolihull56.2% Leave
DeesideToyota Flintshire56.4% Leave
LutonVauxhallLuton56.5% Leave

Strongest leave-voting areas

Leave voting automotive areasThe final set of five factories are spread across a wide geographic area, with more than 15,000 employees split between them.

Intriguingly, Dagenham, Hams Hall and Wolverhampton all exist as facilities to produce engines only.

Jaguar Land Rover’s Wolverhampton-based Engine Manufacturing Centre was only opened in 2014. Plant Hams Hall has seen recent investment from BMW to produce engines for the i8 hybrid sports car.

FactoryManufacturerVoting District2016 Vote Result
BurnastonToyota UKSouth Derbyshire60.4% Leave
SunderlandNissan UKSunderland61.3% Leave
DagenhamFordBarking & Dagenham62.4% Leave
WolverhamptonJaguar Land RoverSouth Staffordshire64.8% Leave
Plant Hams HallBMWNorth Warwickshire66.9% Leave

Remain-voting areas

Leave voting automotive areasNot every area linked to car production voted leave in 2016. Our research found two districts that voted in favour of remain.

FactoryManufacturerVoting District2016 Vote Result
WokingMcLarenWoking56.2% Remain
Plant OxfordBMW (Mini)Oxford70.3% Remain

Leave it out

Leave voting automotive areasThe 2016 EU referendum is a deeply polarising topic, with the reasons for how individuals voted often complex and multifaceted.

What our research does show is that despite local economies often being deeply linked to the local automotive sector, for most areas this did not affect how they voted.

It also serves as a key reminder of the scale of the UK automotive sector, and that those taking satisfaction from the latest Nissan announcement may be overlooking a far wider trend.